With so much media attention being given to the Yankees CF situation, I wanted to debate how much defense really means to the Yankees. To some teams, defense helps them win games. Others rely on offense. So what’s the best approach?

Curtis Granderson was acquired to become the Yankees’ new Center Fielder. For whatever reason, people are speculating that Granderson will be moved over to Left Field for…Brett Gardner? When did Brett turn into Ken Griffey Jr.? The Yankees have never outright committed to Brett Gardner, so why is this a big deal? Does outfielder placement really matter to the Yankees? Don’t you just want to win?

Does defense really matter?

The obvious answer to this question is yes. Pitchers will make good pitches to get hitters out. Teams must have above average fielders to play in each position. You can’t stick a bunch of tomato cans in the field and expect to win. This is all Baseball 101. But when you have an offensive juggernaut filled with high strike out pitchers like the Yankees do, fielding goes on the backburner. The Yankees led baseball with 915 runs scored, 244 home runs, 1,604 hits, and a .362 team-OBP. Due to their new ‘homer friendly’ stadium, many will argue that the Yankees had an unfair advantage. Tell your team owner to build a hitter-friendly park then. But the Yankee success wasn’t all offensively-minded.  Yankee pitchers led the AL in strikeouts(1,260), saves(51), and opponent batting average(.251). Yankee pitchers finished in 4th place with a 4.26 ERA. Expect the strikeout total to climb with Vazquez on the staff(230+ K’s last season).  Ace CC Sabathia led the AL with 19 wins. Timely hitting(15 walk-off wins) and pitching virtually carried this club.

So, let’s get to fielding. The Yankees had two Gold Glove winners in 2009(Jeter and Teixeira). The Yankees were 4th in the AL in team fielding percentage(.985). The only noticeable weak spot(Johnny Damon) has been removed from the team. However, Damon’s fielding weakness was covered up by his offensive production. This season, the Yankees boast an even better defensive lineup. Swisher plays average defense in Right Field, but the rest of the fielders play at a moderately high level. Even with their focus on hitting, the Yankees boast one of the better fielding teams in the league.

So ultimately, How much does defense really matter? Does it really matter who plays LF or CF? No it really doesn’t. People are basically arguing and debating over fractions of a run. Gap coverage really doesn’t matter. The only difference would occur with the balls caught in right field to balls falling in left center(Depending on the CF). That may be 2 or 3 hits per season.

If I had to choose, I’d put Gardner in Center and Grandy in Left. Gardner has got more speed, but it really doesn’t matter.

Bottom Line: The Yankees have two great Center Fielders that can play any outfield position. It won’t matter who plays where. The team will still mash and the pitchers will strike out even more hitters this season with the addition of Vazquez and maturation of Joba. When you have a well-oiled jaggernaut that can hit, pitch, and field, baseball should be simple right? It never is. Let’s get to April 5th already!